I have a lot of patients who have been coming to my office bringing along these new “pouches” of food for their babies. Somehow, pureed baby food has gone from jars to squeeze pouches with new concoctions like peas, pears, and carrots, or squash, apples and broccoli. There are many different makers of this latest “baby invention”.
The pouches are handy for feeding infants as you can just squirt some of the puree onto the spoon and then feed the baby. Most infants initially eat pureed foods whether from a jar, a pouch or even pureed at home, as they begin foods and have to “learn to eat” from a spoon.
But, I am noticing several new problems related to these convenient and “healthy” pureed foods. As I had more and more mothers pulling these pouches out of their purses and offering them to their toddlers I started to read the labels.
Marketing is always important and the moms told me these were organic and natural etc. etc. They said their kids “loved” them and the mother’s were excited that their children were getting their fruits and vegetables. Here is the good news/bad news story.
Many of the brands that I looked at might have squash as the first ingredient on the front label, but when you looked at the actual ingredients apples were listed first. Same for other combinations, while the veggies were prominently displayed on the front label the fruit was actually the main ingredient.
Now, I am not saying that fruit is not good for you, of course it is! But, fruit contains natural sugars, tastes sweet and good, and is also caloric. I asked different mothers how often their child “slurped” their snack and many started telling me they gave them to them throughout the day. “It is so much easier than trying to get them to eat vegetables. I don’t even try real veggies as they won’t touch them.” Back to baby food for those that are not babies!
The problem with this is that toddlers need to start experimenting with textures and different foods. Children are supposed to learn to feed themselves and pick up cooked squash and broccoli and ripe pears.
They need to feel the texture between their fingers as well as in their mouths. Have you watched a child between 9 months -2 years eat? Usually not that pretty, but effective. They mush it up in their hands, put it in their mouths, taste it, swallow some, maybe spit some out, and then repeat the process. This is very important for learning about textures and tastes.
You also learn to throw food off your tray and the lesson that if you throw food all of the time your parents will not pick it back up. Sometimes the dog will eat it, which can be fun to watch, but you also might get hungry and actually try a bite or two of different things. If you don’t experiment with textures and messy self feeding at a young age your child may miss out on some of the important “side effects” of self feeding and have issues with textures as an older child.
Pureed pouches of food might be convenient, and may be good for travel or a special treat but should not be substituted for “real food”. Too many of these pouches a day could lead to too much sugar and cavities, especially as the puree is “sucked” into the mouth and the teeth are exposed to more sugar than if eaten and swallowed in small bites.
I remember those pouches being for astronauts who were in space and had to squeeze their pureed meal into their mouths due to zero gravity, they were not meant for earthly children as substitutes for eating food.
That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.